Stop saying “Faith”!

Theists generally use the word “faith” to refer to their beliefs about God, without regard to how well those beliefs are supported by evidence and reason.

The American Heritage Dictionary actually treats this as the predominant meaning. Fair enough. Over centuries of use, “faith” has come to be used as shorthand for “god-belief” in some contexts. But that is not what the word “faith” really means.

“Faith” speaks to the basis and the reliability of a belief, not the topic of it.

To paraphrase Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is treating something as definitely true because one hopes it is true, even though one has not seen any material evidence for it.”

Any given knowledge claim is based on some combination of evidence, logic, and assumptions. The more it relies on assumptions, the more it is a statement of faith.

That is why, when pressed for evidence for a truth claim, a believer will often say “I just have to have faith that it is true.”

And that is why it is nonsensical to say, “The evidence supports my faith.” Once a belief has adequate evidence to support it, it is no longer a matter of faith.

I know this is a lot to ask, but I’d like to see the word “faith” abandoned and replaced, in each context, with more precise terms. If you mean “beliefs about God,” say that. If you mean “belief despite a lack of evidence,” say that.


Posted on January 19, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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